Monday, January 30, 2017

The Snow Child

Kept coming across Eowyn Ivey's 'The Snow Child' (2011), and kept putting it off. It just doesn't sound like a genre I fancy. I was certain that it isn't going to be anything supernatural. Finally decided to take a shot at it. You know what? Yes, it's not a genre I take to, but I like this book and how the story panned out. Most of all, the author's respect for the land and love of the environment comes through so strongly. (Reviews here, here and here.)

Set in 1920s Alaska, life on the farms in the harsh landscape is as tough as they say. Living off the land is the only way of survival. In those years, the small town's barter economy isn't flourishing; coal mines are the alternative source of dangerous work, and the nearest medical doctor is in Anchorage which is a train ride away. Protagonists husband and wife Jack and Mabel have fled there in a bid to forget their stillborn child and state of childless-ness. They eke out a living on the farmstead and try to make it through their first three winters. They build a snow child, a girl, and stumble upon a seemingly real girl who appears only during winter and vanishes in summer. She has a name- Faina. The girl does disappearing-and-appearing act for eight years.

Then there're neighbors George and Esther Benson and their three sons become fast friends with Jack and Mabel. Incidents and stories ensued. Youngest son Garrett Benson helps out Jack and Mabel loads, lending a much-needed extra pair of hands to the heavy labor required to get the farm and planting going. Garrett comes to feature heavily in their lives. The author narrates each scene very well. Is there really a 'snow child'? Or is it just a girl versed in living off the harsh land and nature, but coming down to the humans in winter since they'd have more food than she could forage in that season? I'll leave that to your imagination.

Garrett stood near the barn with a lantern in his hand, and nearby the boy was leaping and throwing his arms up to the sky. Even from inside the log cabin, Jack could hear the boy's whoops and cheers. The dog bowed playfully beside the boy, barks, then jumped and ran in circles, too. 
As Jack's eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, he saw the ground covered in white and, in the light of Garrett's lantern, snowflakes spinning and falling. 
He took hold of Mabel's hand, and when she turned to him, he saw in her eyes the joy and sorrow of a lifetime. 
"It's snowing," she said.

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